05.06.

1963: Defense Minister Forced to Resign Because of his Relationship with a Soviet Spy Mistress

1963: Defense Minister Forced to Resign Because of his Relationship with a Soviet Spy Mistress
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons/Christine Keeler appearing on television programme After Dark on 4 June 1988, (c) Open Media Ltd 1988

Story Highlights

  • Historical event
  • 5 June 1963
  • The minister initially denied the affair and openly lied in the British Parliament, which is considered an unforgivable offense. Because of the scandal, his young mistress became a star in the UK.

On this day one of the biggest Cold War sex scandals was resolved. British Defense Secretary John Profumo resigned from his post due to relationship with the beautiful Christine Keeler, a 19-year-old topless dancer.

Profumo met her officially two years earlier at a party in Lord Astor’s castle. He was 46 years old and was married to the famous actress Valerie Hobson.

He got involved with young Christine Keeler, not knowing that she then also slept with Yevgeni Ivanov, the senior naval attaché at the Soviet Embassy in London. It seems that Ivanov did some spying for the Soviet Union.

Supposedly Ivanov persuaded Christine to elicit the information on when the U.S. nuclear missiles will be deployed in West Germany from the minister.

It was one of the most tense moments of the Cold War, on the eve of the famous Cuban Missile Crisis. To make matters worse, Christine also slept with a Jamaican drug dealer, a man named Johnny Edgecombe.

On the advice of MI5, the minister ended his relationship with Christine. However, word of the scandal soon got out. The minister initially denied the affair and openly lied in the British Parliament, which is considered an unforgivable offense.

On this day however, he admitted that he had lied and he resigned from his posts. Because of this scandal, Christine Keeler became a star in Britain and posed nude sitting on a chair.

After his resignation, the former minister withdrew from public life and volunteered as a toilet cleaner in a charity facility. He could volunteer since he was privately wealthy (he also had the Italian title of Count).

Eventually, he became a major collector of contributions for that charitable institution. Using his experience with people and his influence, he collected large sums of money for charity.

His wife did not leave him, but she supported him through the entire scandal and later in charity work. He rebuilt his reputation and the Queen awarded him with the Order of the British Empire, and Margaret Thatcher invited him to her 70th birthday celebration, where he sat next to the Queen.

He died at the age of 91, as a prominent philanthropist.

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